2007 – Washington – Larry Biondi

As expected, it was a warm day in our Nation’s Capital for the last week of April. My motorized wheelchair was all souped-up for the Fun-Run Sunday in upper Senate Park. Participants ran or wheeled laps around the park to raise money, with half of the proceeds going to their local ADAPT chapter and the other half going to National ADAPT.

I collected $400 from friends and colleagues in Chicago, so I wasn’t going to disappoint either them, or my fellow ADAPTers. I ran -eh rolled 38 laps around the park.

On Monday we really hit the pavement by marching to the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill. ADAPT invaded the offices of Rep. John Dingell (D – MI) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and the hearing room of the Commerce, Energy and Health Committee to hold hearings on The Community Choice Act (CCA) H.R. 1621 and S. 799. While about a hundred ADAPT activists were occupying the offices, the other ADAPTers filled the horseshoe driveway in front of the building chanting, “The Community Choice Act, Now!” Protesters used whistles to punctuate their boisterous chants.

I was one of ninety-nine protesters who were arrested. We were taken to the Capital’s garage where they s-l-o-w-l-y processed us. The last arrestee was released at 3:30 a.m.

Victory! We were promised a hearing on the bill before the end of the year.

The week only got better. We didn’t have to “visit” HUD as we normally do in D.C., Secretary Alphonso Jackson came to ADAPT instead. He met with 50 ADAPT delegates at our hotel to discuss housing issues and then he visited the ballroom to meet with the whole gang. He greeted ADAPT by saying, “I came to you.”

He later told the group that “Fair Housing is a right.”

Highlights of Jackson’s commitments to ADAPT:

Inform ADAPT by September during its action in Chicago on how many housing vouchers for persons with disabilities he has recovered from the 58% loss in vouchers that the disability community suffered due to a combination of federal budget cuts and misappropriation of vouchers by local entities that administer the voucher program in communities across the country.

Jackson vowed to eliminate the “outrageous” level of discrimination in housing against persons with disabilities.

Promise to facilitate a meeting between ADAPT, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). Both of them serve on committees that are responsible for legislation affecting changes to segregated housing t people with disabilities.

Jackson committed to work with ADAPT on implementing ADAPT’s Access Across America Program, which would provide housing vouchers to persons with disabilities in nursing homes and ICFMRs that, combined with Money Follows the Person and previously existing initiatives to the states, will get people with disabilities out of these institutions and into affordable, integrated and accessible housing.

Promise to meet with ADAPT three times a year.

After meeting with Jackson, ADAPT marched up the street and stormed into American Hospital Association (AHA) building. We packed the first floor hallway to demand a meeting with the AHA to discuss better discharge planning and that they endorse CCA. A lot of our brothers and sisters go into the hospital, thinking they will return home but end up imprisoned because of piss poor discharge planning by social workers. The AHA agreed to meet with ADAPT in the next 30 days.

The last day we converged on Capitol Hill, urging all 535 Congressmen to be co-sponsors and support CCA.

I got arrested with 130 warriors for trespassing in front of the Rayburn office Building to drive the message home. After the arrest we were transported to an underground police garage on the Hill. It was a long and tedious process. I had a good laugh with my fellow Chicago ADAPTer, Darrell Price, regarding crip humor. You know, the moment you had to be there to appreciate it. I then spent the rest of the 8 hours with my friends, Sara and Jennifer from Vermont, sharing laughs. I don’t know why it was for such a jovial atmosphere. Probably it was the carbon monoxide that I heard that was leaking from that garage.

I finally got released around 9 that night. I waited outside of the garage for a group that was released and we rolled back to the holiday Inn. We hung outside of the hotel until the rest returned, in the wee hours of the morning. I felt a great deal of satisfaction at what we accomplished this week: The commitment from Secretary Jackson, the commitment from Congress to hold hearings on CCA and the good camaraderie among ADAPTers and beautiful weather.

“Our work this week has accomplished even more than we do,” ADAPT organizer Bob Kafka said. That what victory can do for ya.